Wednesday, November 11, 2009

#22 Robbie Grossman

The Bucs stirred a little debate in 2008 when they picked Robbie Grossman, a switch-hitting high school outfielder from Cypress Fairbanks HS in Texas, with the sixth round selection.

His prep bona-fides were sterling. Grossman hit 11 home runs and was awarded the Josh Beckett Award as the Houston-area Player of the Year, and was also a First-Team All-District selection.

Before his senior season, Grossman participated in the Pan American Junior Championships as a member of the USA Baseball Junior National Team, where he hit .450 and was named to the All-Pan American team.

But he's anything but a "can't miss" player. The 6-1, 190 pounder is the classic tweener whose most obvious tool is an engine that won't shut down. Scouts were concerned that with his average (but accurate) arm, average range, and a line-drive rather than long ball bat, he wouldn't be able to handle center with the mitt or a corner with his stick.

Ah, but that motor. Every phrase used to describe him on a baseball diamond starts with the word "aggressive," and some clipboard guys compared him to Lenny Dykstra, and others to Nate McLouth, both classic overachievers. And hey, that's not bad company.

That spark was enough that Baseball America rated him the 49th best prospect in the draft, and many people thought he'd be a late first or early second-round pick. But he was signed to attend Texas and apparently meant to honor his John Doe, dropping his pro stock in the process.

In mid-August, though, the Bucs waved a million smackers under his nose and promised to pay for him to go to college later, and so it was bye-bye Longhorns and hello Pirates. says this about Grossman:
"Grossman is the kind of player that can be fun to watch because he knows only one speed: full. A real grinder, he plays the game hard and makes the most of his tools, which include decent speed and some strength at the plate. He doesn't really profile well at any outfield position, but it's also evident he won't be outworked and is the type to exceed expectations."
He had a cup of coffee in the GCL, and began playing for real in 2009 at West Virginia. As a 19 year-old (he turned 20 in September, after the season), he didn't exactly tear it up in A ball, but he wasn't a fish out of water, either.

Grossman hit .266/5/42 and scored 83 times in 535 top-of-the-order at-bats, stealing 35 bases in 47 tries - no, he's not bashful about taking off - a 75% rate. The teen had a .373 OBP, drawing 75 walks, tops in the Pirate organization.

Unfortunately, he also whiffed enough to supply a fair-sized windmill with sufficient breeze to power New York City; he had 164 K's, a 31% rate. And his average dropped 30 points over the last few weeks of the year, from a high of .295 at All-Star break. But that's not an unusual path for one's first full pro season.

He played about 2/3's of his games in center; the rest in left (he was moved over when Starling Marte joined the club), booting five balls and throwing out eight runners from the pasture. All in all, it went as expected for a peach-fuzzed rook - a learning experience with some ups and downs.

Still, for a 19 year-old that for all intents skipped rookie and short-season ball, not a bad start. And we'll see in 2010 if jumping those levels was justified. We expect him to start the season in High A Bradenton, a big leap for a kid that never played college ball and then by-passed State College.

(Next - #21 Justin Wilson)

No comments: